AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a fatal disease that is caused due to transmission of an RNA virus known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Since the first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in 1980, the disease has been a mystery to the medical fraternity and researchers around the world. Although the world has done enormously well to curb this infection, even today no permanent cure and prevention strategy could be developed for the severe disease. India has also managed to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic, due to its constant effective and sincere prevention strategies through efficient national health programmes like National AIDS Control Programme. The advent of Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART), in 2003, has also proven to be a boon for the people living with HIV/AIDS as it has considerably reduced the morbidity and mortality related to the disease. According to the department of AIDS control, India demonstrated an overall reduction of 57% in the annual new HIV infections from the year 2000 to 2011. It was also reported that antiretroviral therapy and its scale up has estimated to have saved over 1.5 lakhs lives till 2011 and in high prevalence states the estimated AIDS related deaths have decreased by 42% from 2007-2011.
Even after so many positive accomplishments a facet that has not changed about the disease is the taboo associated with it. The world of HIV/AIDS is as complex to comprehend sociologically as much as it is difficult to apprehend scientifically. HIV/AIDS is associated with many conceptions and emotions ranging from apprehension, resentment, anxiety, fear, anguish, stigma and discrimination.Stigma and discrimination are the most unwanted yet familiar words for the people living with HIV/AIDS.Even a country like India which boasts of being Asia’s next super power and which has progressed by leaps and bounds both financially and otherwise, has a long route to traverse when it comes to addressing the issues related to stigma and discrimination of its HIV patients. Lack of awareness, false perceptions and ignorance towards the disease are the major reasons leading to high levels of discrimination towards the patients. It is essential to address this stigma attached to the disease as it leads to late presentation of HIV/AIDS patients to the health care delivery system and is a major barrier for prevention and early treatment of the disease. The theme for the World AIDS Day on 1st December, 2014 focuses on bridging this gap in prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS by promoting the post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for people who have been exposed to HIV like health workers, commercial sex workers and rape survivors. Although the Government of India has implemented various awareness generation strategies, the theme of World’s AIDS day reiterates the importance of reducing stigma and encouraging people exposed to the infection for accepting post-exposure prophylaxis. Fiinovation believes it is important to raise awareness regarding the infection, so that people cease to be in denial and accept the infection as a transmissible infection that can be prevented to an extent via proper post exposure prophylaxis. The guidelines also support use of antibiotic co-trimoxazole to prevent HIV related infections. Fiinovation understands an important cornerstone for addressing the problem of HIV epidemic in India is to deliver the message to the people that HIV/AIDS although not completely curable, is most certainly preventable. With hope of a better tomorrow, let us strive to bring some light to the challenging lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Spread Love….Stop Discrimination
By Eti Rajwar
Programme Manager – Fiinovation